Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

The revised and updated 2nd edition of this broad-ranging text examines the political dynamic of the European Parliament within the EU and sets it in the broader context of comparative legislative analysis. The authors make important contributions to the debates surrounding the democracy, legitimacy and 'parliamentarization' of the European Union.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
One of the few things upon which both proponents and opponents of the European Union (EU) are able to agree is that the pace of European integration has been rapid and continuing. Whether it should be, or not, is what separates the two. In this process of change, the EU’s institutions are, often simultaneously, both the propagators of change and the ‘reapers’ of this integrationist dynamic; and none more so than the European Parliament (EP). Indeed, of all the EU’s institutions, the EP has come furthest and fastest in the enhancement of its role and powers since what was, in many respects, a ‘standing start’ after the first direct European elections in 1979.
David Judge, David Earnshaw

Chapter 1. Locating the European Parliament

Abstract
Where is the European Parliament located? The answer seems to be obvious, at least in geographical terms: in Brussels, along with the other major institutions of the European Union — the Council of the European Union and the European Commission. However, as we will discover in the rest of this book, there are no simple answers as far as the EP is concerned. Certainly, there is an impressive parliamentary complex just off the rue Belliard in Brussels, strategically located across from the building which houses the Council of Ministers and close by the Commission buildings. Dominated by the Spaak and Spinelli Buildings the complex contains a futuristic debating chamber (hemicycle) and the offices of the 785 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and their staff. It is used for meetings of the Parliament’s committees and for plenary part-sessions. However, this impressive complex is matched by another imposing set of buildings in the French city of Strasbourg, some 450 kilometres from Brussels. The Strasbourg complex comprises the Churchill, Weiss and Madariaga Buildings and accommodates MEPs and their staff during twelve weekly plenary sessions each year. So the answer to the original question is: Brussels and Strasbourg. Even this is only a partial answer however, as the full answer is Brussels and Strasbourg and Luxembourg. Indeed Luxembourg was the original home of the Parliament before direct elections in 1979, and is still the formal location of the Parliament’s General Secretariat. Thus, even locating the European Parliament geographically is not a simple undertaking.
David Judge, David Earnshaw

Chapter 2. Historical Evolution: The European Parliament and Ever Closer Union

Abstract
Chapter 1 introduced a variety of models of legislative functions, and theories about the EU as a political system, with little attempt to locate the EP decisively in any single model or theory. Instead, the categories and variables that might be of use in undertaking such an exercise were simply identified and listed. The purpose of Chapter 1, therefore, was limited to making the analytical prescription that the study of the EP has to be: interinstitutional — to take account of its relation with other institutions; contextual — to take account of the systemic context in which it operates; and interconnected — to take account of the multifunctional nature of legislatures. The purpose of this chapter is to follow this prescription and examine how the location of the EP has varied across time in accordance with changes to its functional roles, its interinstitutional relations with the Commission and Council, and the systemic context in which it operates. It is important to deal with this cross-time analysis at the outset, both to provide a historical perspective on the development of the EP, and to provide a perspective from which the EP can be viewed in the early twenty-first century — without constantly having to refer back to the evolution of the EP in subsequent chapters.
David Judge, David Earnshaw

Chapter 3. Linkage, Elections and Legitimacy

Abstract
In the context of the EU this general statement, which Loewenberg and Patterson believe is universally applicable to all legislatures, is problematic on at least three counts: first, what constitutes ‘the people’ of the EU; second, what constitutes the EU’s government; and, third, what are the special ways in which this connection takes place. The answer to the third question is provided in fact by Loewenberg and Patterson (1979:166) who maintain that ‘the word representation describes that relationship’. In this chapter we aim to examine the electoral linkage at the core of the process of representation and in so doing to analyse the concepts of the ‘people’, European ‘demos’, legitimacy and democracy. However, as Chapters 1 and 2 made clear, discussion of the EP’s role in the representative process of the EU cannot be discussed in isolation from conceptions of its roles as a legislature and of its location within a multi-level system of governance.
David Judge, David Earnshaw

Chapter 4. Linkage, Representation and MEPs

Abstract
Chapter 3 examined the linkage provided by direct elections between Members of the European Parliament and citizens of the European Union. In this chapter we develop the analysis of linkage by looking at how the EP acts as a representative body, and how it links citizens and decision-makers in the periods between elections. However, this immediately raises the question of what is ‘representation’? It also immediately leads us to sidestep a detailed discussion of the various meanings of representation (see Pitkin 1967; Judge 1999) in favour of addressing the specific ways in which citizens are re-presented in the European Parliament by their elected members. In particular, we will concentrate upon the foci of representation — upon ‘what’ is to be represented when elected politicians act for the represented.
David Judge, David Earnshaw

Chapter 5. Party Groups in the European Parliament

Abstract
Chapter 4 raised some of the issues surrounding the representative/linkage role of political parties and the extent to which notions of transnational party competition are appropriate for the study of the EU. In this chapter we examine the role played by party groups in the internal workings of the EP. Not only do parties link the people to decision-makers but they also link, structure and regularize interactions between decision-makers themselves. In this respect the EP is no different from most other parliaments and legislatures in that parties provide the organizational lubricant for the smooth operation of the institution. A clear link can be discerned between the effective organization of the EP and the structure of party groups within that institution. Indeed, the best way to analyse party groups, for our purposes at least, is as aggregations of individual representatives as an institutional response to the complexities of decision-making in an environment characterized by information overload, linguistic proliferation, territorial diversity, ideological heterogeneity and technological complexity.
David Judge, David Earnshaw

Chapter 6. Internal Organization

Abstract
How legislators choose to organize themselves is one of the most fundamental issues confronting parliamentarians and students of legislatures alike. Different forms of legislative organization impact differently upon the internal relations between individual representatives, and upon the external relations of parliaments with other political institutions within the wider political system. Moreover, the choice of rules and procedures affects both the process of legislative decision-making and the nature of legislative outputs themselves. Not surprisingly, therefore, long before ‘new institutionalism’ (and its rediscovery of the importance of political institutions) became fashionable in academic circles, questions of legislative organization and institutional design had been of historic concern to parliamentarians and legislative scholars alike.
David Judge, David Earnshaw

Chapter 7. Formal Powers

Abstract
Heeding Blondel’s words, this chapter examines the formal powers conferred upon the EP before the complexities of legislative influence are analysed in Chapter 8. Almost by definition, such an examination is comparative in nature as it requires an assessment of the powers of the EP in relation to other institutions involved in the EU’s legislative process, and also invites some assessment of the powers of the EP in comparison with those of national parliaments. In particular, in line with Mezey’s ideas outlined in Chapter 1, this chapter will examine the capacity of the EP to constrain the legislative activities of the ‘dual executive’ of the Commission and Council. However, this does not mean that constraints are to be analysed solely in negative terms — of preventing action — but should also be seen as positive incentives to promote cooperative interinstitutional collaboration. Moreover, as Chapter 2 revealed, the formal powers of the European Parliament have to be viewed in tandem with informal modes of influence. How these formal and informal dimensions interact will be examined in Chapter 8; in the meantime the powers of the EP will be outlined in relation to the processing of legislation, budgetary control, appointment and dismissal of EU institutions, and scrutiny and control of EU institutions.
David Judge, David Earnshaw

Chapter 8. Influence and Decision-Making

Abstract
Despite the many and varied changes noted in earlier chapters of this book, the European Parliament still suffers an image problem. Some standard student texts on the EU, while acknowledging Parliament’s increased powers in recent years, continue to argue that it remains ‘a junior member in the EU decision-making system’ and ‘has a credibility problem’ (McCormick 2005:94). The general lack of public awareness of Parliament’s increased power was noted ruefully in 2004 by the then President of Parliament, Pat Cox: ‘Parliament’s role in law making is still poorly known and understood. Many still believe that governments inside the Council alone decide the contents of EU regulations and directives’ (PE 287.644 2004:3). Yet, in contrast, specialist scholars of parliaments argue that ‘the formal powers of the European Parliament allow us to qualify it as a policy-making legislature’ (Auel and Rittberger 2006:124), and that comparative evaluations of the EP’s influence have tended to rank the EP higher in terms of its legislative impact than many national parliaments (see Scully 2000a:235; Kreppel 2002:1; Scully 2007:179). Indeed, Hix et al. (2007:3) go so far as to argue that the EP is now ‘one of the most powerful elected assemblies in the world’.
David Judge, David Earnshaw

Chapter 9. A Parliamentary Europe?

Abstract
An essential part of the analysis of this book has been to examine the extent to which the EP can be understood in terms of the universal roles ascribed to ‘parliaments’. Established analyses of comparative legislatures have been used to assess the merits of arguments about whether the EP constitutes a ‘true’, ‘proper’ or ‘normal’ parliament; and discussions about whether the EU can be identified as a parliamentary system and the prospects for further ‘parliamentarization’ have been set within a broader examination of the notion of a ‘parliamentary model’ (see Chapter 1).
David Judge, David Earnshaw
Additional information